Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior is a major work by Henry Moore from the series of ‘helmet head’ sculptures that preoccupied Moore throughout his career and which he created between 1939 and 1986. It is one of his most intriguing works and one exhibited and discussed widely.
A cast of Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior was shown at Marlborough Fine Art’s New London Gallery in July 1965 as part of a two-person exhibition of works by Moore and Francis Bacon.
Reviewing this show the critic G.S. Whittet wrote that ‘it is no exaggeration to say that in twentieth century art Henry Moore is the one who expresses, if not the goodness, at least the strength and dignity that survive in this civilisation’. Bryan Robertson noted that ‘Moore’s invincible sense of human resilience ... is sometimes frozen into hard, wary monumentality ... but his surrealist instinct makes it hard to tell hot from cold, flesh from bone, helmet or shell from leathery skin’.
When examples from the helmet head series were included in Moore’s 1968 exhibition at Tate, the curator David Sylvester chose to identify the relationship between the internal and external forms in these works as a manifestation of the mother and child relationship. For Sylvester, the helmet head series belonged to the same class or family of works as Moore’s Reclining Mother and Child 1960–1 (Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis), in which the artist explored the complex nature of this relationship.
The art historian and long-time supporter of Moore’s work, Kenneth Clark, regarded the drawn and sculpted helmet heads as forming a powerful body of work which suggested that ‘in the back of Moore’s mind was the memory of those metal helmets worn by soldiers in a dictator’s army intent on quelling a revolt’. For Clark the helmet heads were daunting and disturbing objects, the most frightening of all being ‘the nameless bronze monsters of the 1960s. The most terrifying was cast in 1963’. Clark does not explicitly name this sculpture but it may have been Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior. In an extended discussion of the varying representation of the head across Moore’s oeuvre, Clark concluded that ‘Moore’s inner demon sees the human head as a terrible and fascinating enemy’.
Sources and development
During his career, Moore made a number of ‘helmet head’ sculptures exploring the relationship between interior and exterior forms. Moore remarked to Richard Calvocoressi, then a research assistant at Tate, that the interior element of this work was hidden and protected from the light by the larger exterior piece, giving the sculpture an air of mystery.
Discussing the helmet head series more generally, Moore recalled that ‘the idea of one form inside another form may owe some of its incipient beginnings to my interest at one stage in armour. I spent many hours in the Wallace Collection, in London, looking at armour’. When he visited the Wallace Collection as a student in the 1920s, Moore would have had access to one of the largest collections of armoury in Britain, including items dating back to the fourteenth century. However, in the late 1960s, Moore also suggested that his interest was sparked by the artist ‘Wyndham Lewis talking about the shell of lobster covering the soft flesh inside’. The helmet head sculptures have also been associated with the image of a foetus in a womb.
The particular tubular shape of Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior can be traced to a series of drawings made by Moore between 1948 and 1950. In these sketches Moore sought to develop his ideas regarding exterior structures and interior forms, using wax crayon to establish contours and, by means of tonal gradation, lend greater fullness to the forms depicted. The two studies at the centre-right of Studies for Helmets and Full-Length Enclosed Figures anticipate the curved lines and domed surfaces of Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior. Together, these two studies also show how Moore experimented with openings in the surface of the exterior component, which otherwise forms a complete, enclosing pod. These designs may be distinguished from the more open shelter-like casing of Helmet Head No.1, indicating that from the beginning Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior was designed to negotiate a different kind of relationship between its interior and exterior forms.
It is unclear why there was a ten-year hiatus between the making of the first and second helmet head sculptures in 1950 and the third and fourth examples in 1960 and 1963 respectively, but Moore’s interest may have been reignited by his decision to cast the original lead version of Helmet Head No.1 in bronze in 1960. In 1965, the critic Herbert Read stated that although Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior displays ‘the sculptor’s formal inventiveness and ability to develop an “idea”’, it does ‘not differ essentially from [earlier] works’. Revisiting Helmet Head No.1 ten years after its conception may have stimulated Moore to re-engage with the motif. In addition to Helmet Head No.3 and Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior Moore also created Head: Cyclops 1963 (fig.13) in this period. Although it is not identified by its title as belonging to the helmet head series, this sculpture utilises many of the same components: an elongated neck, a rounded head with a cut-out area, and a separate, partially concealed form within it.
The curator Julian Andrews has suggested that the long neck of Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior distinguishes it from Moore’s other helmet head sculptures, which have shorter necks and lack discernable shoulders. As such, he has proposed that this sculpture ‘bears some resemblance to a person wearing a snorkel diving mask’. Although there is no firm evidence to support his claim, Andrews elaborates that ‘at the time he made this sculpture Moore had just acquired his summer retreat in Italy, so it is quite possible that he might have seen these relatively new inventions on the beaches of Forte dei Marmi’. Andrews justified this association by comparing the form of the sculpture to Moore’s 1939 drawing September 3rd 1939 (fig.14). This drawing depicts a group of figures in the sea, half-submerged and appearing to strain for breath above the surface. Each figure appears to be wearing some form of bathing suit that includes a helmet or skull cap. Made on the same day that the Second World War was declared, this drawing could be said to convey a sense of impending destruction through its ominous, angular cliffs and the threat of drowning. Andrews concluded his discussion by suggesting that, taken collectively, Moore’s series of helmet heads ‘can be read as symbolic of the dehumanisation of mankind in an increasingly technological society’.
In addition to Tate’s example, versions of the sculpture can be found in the collections of the Henry Moore Foundation and the Everson Museum of Art of Syracuse, New York. Other casts are believed to be held in private collections. The original plaster from which the bronze edition was cast is also held at the Henry Moore Foundation.
British Sculpture in the Sixties: An Exhibition Organised by the Contemporary Art Society in Association with the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, Tate Gallery, London, February–April 1965, no.80.
Henry Moore, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, May–July 1968; Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, September–November 1968, no.114.
Henry Moore: Bronzes 1961–70, Marlborough Gallery, New York, April–May 1970 (?another cast exhibited no.13).
Henry Moore, Musée Rodin, Paris, 1971, no.45.
Henry Moore: Sculpture, Drawings, Graphics, Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, November–December 1971, no.14.
Henry Moore, Playhouse Gallery, Harlow, March–April 1972, no.5.
The Henry Moore Gift, Tate Gallery, London, June–August 1978, no number.
Henry Moore 1898–1986, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, March–August 1998, no.38.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of His Life and Work, London 1965, pp.238–40, reproduced pl. 229.
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Gallery, Rome 1965 (?another cast reproduced no.36).
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Fine Art, London 1965 (?another cast reproduced no.16).
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 1967 (another cast reproduced no.18).
John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1968, p.193, reproduced pl.203.
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo 1968, reproduced no.114.
David Sylvester, Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1968.
Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921–69, London 1970.
Henry Moore: Bronzes 1961–70, exhibition catalogue, Marlborough Gallery, New York 1970 (?another cast reproduced p.50, no.13).
John Russell, Henry Moore, revised edn, London 1975, pp.138–42, reproduced pl.131.
The Henry Moore Gift, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1978, reproduced p.50.
Richard Calvocoressi, ‘T.2291, Helmet Head No.4: Interior-Exterior 1963’ in The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, pp.132–3, reproduced p.132.
Henry Moore: Head–Helmet, exhibition catalogue, DLI Museum and Arts Centre, Durham 1982 (another cast reproduced p.26, no.32).
Henry Moore en México: Escultura, Dibujo, Grafica de 1921 a 1982, exhibition catalogue, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City 1982 (another cast reproduced p.62, no.78).
Henry Moore: Esculturas, Dibujos, Grabados – Obras de 1921 a 1982, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Caracas 1983 (another cast reproduced p.68, no.33).
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Sculpture and Drawings 1955–64, 1965, revised edn, London 1986, no.508, pl.155.
The Art of Henry Moore: Sculptures, Drawings and Graphics 1921–1984, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo 1986.
Laura Doan, ‘Wombs of War: Henry Moore’s Repositioning of Gender’, Gender, no.17, fall 1993, pp.41–58.
Henry Moore 1898–1986, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 1998, reproduced p.185.
Patrick McCaughey, Henry Moore and the Heroic: A Centenary Tribute, exhibition catalogue, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven 1999 (another cast reproduced).
Henry Moore Rétrospective, exhibition catalogue, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul 2002 (another cast reproduced p.181, no.155).
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux–Arts de Valenciennes, Valenciennes 2002 (another cast reproduced p.68, no.30).
Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Fundació ‘la Caixa’, Barcelona 2006 (another cast reproduced p.159).